Three days after a Supreme Court directive, the Bombay High Court on Monday put up the beleaguered Sahara Group's prestigious Aamby Valley city in Lonavala for a public auction even as a Mauritius-based fund seems to have evinced interest in investing the project.
The Official Liquidator for the Aamby Valley city -- considered the jewel in the crown of the Sahara Group -- has put up a reserve price of Rs 37,392 crore. The Sahara group pegs the market valuation of this project at over Rs 1 lakh crore.
The Supreme Court Thursday rejected Sahara chief Subrata Roy's plea to put on hold the auction process of the group's saying its doesn't believe that he will pay Rs 1,500 crore, if the auction process was halted or postponed.
"Your proposal is making us to make a statement that it is willing suspension of belief," said the bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra.
It said the auction process will go on according to the schedule and if Rs 1,500 crore is paid by the contemnor (Roy) into the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)-Sahara refund account by 7 September, then it may pass an appropriate order.
During the hearing, appearing for Sahara senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued for the auction to be postponed at least until 16 September to enable Roy arrange the money.
He said Sahara has been on the verge of entering an agreement with a Mauritius-based company to raise money, but for that purpose, the auction process has to be postponed for the time being.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing the Sebi, opposed the proposal saying that every time a process starts, the group came up with some objection in order to delay the process.
He said that it was a global auction and interested parties from across the world would participate and Rs 4.4 crore has already been spent in initiating the process.
On 11 August, Royale Partners Investment Fund, a Mauritius-based investor, said it has offered to invest $1.67 billion (over Rs 10,700 crore) in embattled Sahara group's Aamby Valley project.
Royale Partners Investment Fund Limited, registered in Mauritius as a global business company, is owned by Dubai-headquartered RPMG Investment which is into investment management, private equity, asset management and proprietary trading.
"As deposed by Sahara before the Supreme Court of India, Royale Partners Investment Fund Ltd and its Limited Partners have agreed to invest USD 1.67 billion in the Aamby Valley Project," RPMG Investment told PTI.
It, however, declined to share further details, saying the deal terms are confidential.
"The terms and conditions have been outlined in the agreements signed with Aamby Valley India and are confidential. As the Supreme Court of India is seized of the matter, it is not appropriate for us to comment any further at this stage," the company said.
Sahara's advocate Gautam Awasthi, meanwhile, said in a statement that the group had moved an application before the Supreme Court seeking permission for entering into an agreement with Victor Koenig UK Limited, with the nominee Royale Partners Investment Fund Limited, for inviting the investment into its Aamby Valley project.
"With the aforesaid proposal, Sahara had also prayed for stopping the auction process. After hearing counsels for Sebi, amicus curie and Kapil Sibal, senior advocate for Sahara, the Supreme Court has opened a window for Sahara by permitting them to enter into the negotiations and deposit the amount before this court, and that is Rs 1,500 crore to be deposited before the next date," he said.
Now it remains to be seen whether the deal will fructify for Sahara to remit Rs 1,500 crore in the Sebi account.
The apex court had on July 25 asked the embattled Sahara chief to deposit Rs 1,500 crore in the SEBI-Sahara account by September 7 and said that it might then deliberate upon his plea seeking 18 months more time for making complete repayment.
The court had simultaneously approved the draft sale notice and terms to dispose of the property prepared by the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court.
"The official liquidator shall publish the sale notice as given by him and the notice shall be published on August 14. The steps which are required to be taken for the publication of the sale notice, are allowed," the court had said.
The Sahara Group had earlier sought 18 months' time to repay around Rs 9,000 crore balance amount of the principal amount of Rs 24,000 crore.
Sibal, however, had said that according to the group, the remaining amount was around Rs 8,000 crore and it had made all efforts to deposit the money.
Roy, who has spent almost two years in jail, has been on parole since May 6 last year. The parole was granted the first time to enable him attend the funeral of his mother. It has been extended since then.
Besides Roy, two other directors -- Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary -- were arrested for failure of the group's two companies -- Sahara India Real Estate Corporation (SIRECL) and Sahara Housing Investment Corp Ltd (SHICL) -- to comply with the court's 31 August 2012 order to return Rs 24,000 crore to their investors.
Another company director Vandana Bhargava was not taken into custody.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)
Updated Date: Aug 14, 2017 09:18 AM